After Wednesday afternoon's practice, South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner ran down a number of factors that would go into his decision on who to start Friday night's CWS game against Virgina.
Thursday after practice Tanner still didn't have an answer. While Tanner did say the decision is still between staff ace Michael Roth and freshman Forrest Koumas, he seemed to hint that if Roth is healthy and wants the ball that he's leaning in that direction.
Tanner has shown he has a hard time telling Roth, a veteran junior who has been the team's best starter all year, no when he asks for the ball.
"I've avoided Michael to this point, on purpose," Tanner said. "I see him coming, I go the other way. He's had four complete days now, so yeah, that is certainly the mindset. But I want to sit down and talk with him a little bit and decide if it's the right thing."
Roth pitched a no-decision Sunday night as he didn't give up an earned run in 7.1 innings of work in South Carolina's 5-4 victory over Texas A&M. He threw 124 pitches in the game.
Tanner showed at last year's CWS that when it comes to trying to win a championship, he believes in going with his best pitcher as soon as he's ready rather than sticking to a regular season rotation. Veterans Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson, and even Roth himself, all came back on short rest in last year's march to a championship.
Even though the Gamecocks could lose Friday's game and still win Saturday to make it to the championship series, Tanner has never believed in looking ahead.
"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Tanner says. "You've got to do the best you can today and worry about everything else later. I seem to be best in the moment, I can't look too far ahead."
And in the moment, Roth certainly appears to be the Gamecocks' best option, if he's 100 percent.
Tanner was set to sit down with Roth after practice and hoped to come to a decision before his players went to bed Thursday night.
Tanner considered going with a different pitcher to start the SEC Tournament to give Roth an extra day's rest. But when Roth asked for the ball, Tanner gave it to him.
Roth indicated after practice Wednesday that he hopes he will pitch Friday.
"He has stripes on his sleeves and he's earned those," Tanner said. "But he's also very intelligent and he normally, if he's physically ready to go, that's the thing that's most important, and if he wants the ball that's big as well.
"But I'll make him consider some other things when he tells me how he really feels and then we'll go through the conversation and see who wins."
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